Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Invitation

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Christmas is all about inviting Christ into our hearts, our homes, and our lives. At the same time, it is Christ’s invitation to us to accept the good news the angels proclaimed 2000 years ago: “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ ” Luke 2:10-11.

This Christmas Jesus invites us again into a relationship with Him that can change our lives. Today, extend Christ the invitation found in the Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem,

“O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I'm Expecting...

Each Christmas morning when I was a child, I would wake up early feeling giddy with expectation of what Santa had left under the tree for me and my sister. I remember creeping down the hall and tiptoeing into the den which had been transformed overnight into a mini toy store. But the delight I had as a child waiting on Santa cannot compare to the joy only Jesus brings as we celebrate Advent, the season of expectation. It is during Advent that we prepare to celebrate anew Christ’s birth.

For nine months, Mary waited for God’s promise to an entire nation to be fulfilled. She also waited for the special promises He gave to her alone. We wait, too. We wait for the Lord to return for His Second Coming. But waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. Ask any expectant mother. It means preparing and so we prepare our hearts as a place for Christ to dwell.

I am expecting something wonderful to happen Christmas day. I’m not looking for a package marked:  “To: Christie, From: Santa.” Instead, I am waiting for God to renew my spirit and to fill my heart with the peace, love, and joy only He can give.

“Love came down at Christmas,
 Love all lovely, Love Divine,
 Love was born at Christmas,
 Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.”

 --Christina Rosetti

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Don’t Miss Jesus This Christmas

When Jesus came to earth over 2000 years ago, many missed it. They had a preconceived notion about the Messiah of Israel and when He did not fit the mold, they dismissed Him. There were some though, who understood. Mary and Joseph understood because of their obedience to God’s plan. The shepherds got it because they humbled themselves and welcomed/accepted God’s angel messengers and their message. The pagan wise men recognized Jesus because they were seeking the truth. Even cruel, devious King Herod realized who Jesus was. That’s why he tried to kill Him. None of them may have truly comprehended all of Jesus’s personhood, but they did not try to limit God’s work by their limited understanding.

Sometimes we miss God’s answers to our prayers because of the packaging in which they arrive. Jesus came as a peasant baby, born in a dirty, smelly animal stable. Though they claimed royal lineage, his parents were poor and lived in an unimportant, backwater town. Despite these facts, His birth was predicted by dozens of prophets, attended by a new star, and heralded by a choir of angels.

Oftentimes, God still shows up in ways and through means we do not expect and so we miss Him. This Christmas when you shake the shiny, colorful packages under the tree, don’t forget to keep your eyes and ears open to the true gifts God wants to give you this season.

“Follow the star to a place unexpected...would you believe after all we projected, a child in a manger...”
--"How Many Kings?" by Downhere

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gratitude is a Choice

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”—American Presbyterian minister Henry Van Dyke

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and after consciously practicing gratitude for years, I thought I was an old pro at it. But I hit a roadblock the week before Thanksgiving when I made a costly mistake that lightened my wallet. Considerably. After a short rant and a brief meltdown, I told a friend: “I am going to consciously choose to be thankful.” I was not thankful for the mishap or its hefty price, but I was reminded of Paul’s admonition to “give thanks in all circumstances.” He goes on to say: “for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

While Paul was not advising us to ignore the real difficulties of life, he was reminding us that we are to turn to God when we face problems. Or as one friend wrote to me: “a thankful person is a powerful person.” I agree. When you choose to thank God for His blessings and to seek His wisdom and counsel for solutions to your problems, you unleash His power. The same power that created the world. The same power that brought Jesus out of the grave on Easter morning. That’s some power!

God’s grace and faithfulness are unending and it is our privilege to thank Him for His provision, His presence and His protection. Psalm 100:4 tells us:  “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” The next verse provides an excellent reason to do this: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

While it might be difficult, the next time you face adversity, remember to stop and thank God for all He has done for you and ask Him to help you with whatever challenge you face now.